Arianna Huffington Touts the Wonders of Sleep

Science, history, mystery of sleep at PLA2016 Adult Author Lunch

April 8, 2016

Arianna Huffington addresses the crowd at the Adult Author Lunch during the Public Library Association 2016 conference in Denver.
Arianna Huffington addresses the crowd at the Adult Author Lunch during the Public Library Association 2016 conference in Denver.

When Huffington Post chair, president, and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington fell and broke her cheekbone in 2007, she went to numerous doctors to find out what was wrong. The simple answer, it seems, was a lack of sleep. Exhaustion.

Huffington, the Adult Author Lunch speaker at today’s Public Library Association 2016 conference in Denver, took the fall as a literal wake-up call. She had been “running on empty” with just 4–5 hours of sleep a night. She learned new ways to calm herself before bed, and slowly worked her way back up to eight hours of sleep a night.

She wrote a book about the science, history, and mystery of sleep, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time (Penguin Random House), that just came out this month.

Some of her tips:

  • About 5–30 minutes before bed, “turn off all your devices and gently escort them out of your bedroom.” Her own nightstand is piled with physical books, and she reads from them each night.
  • Take a warm bath and light a candle to set a calming mood.
  • Wear pajamas. “I used to sleep in my gym clothes, but the brain gets confused—Are we going to the gym or to sleep?”

“Right now, we take better care of our smartphones than ourselves. Everybody here knows how much battery charge they have left on their phones,” she said. But often, we don’t allow ourselves to recharge with a good sleep.

“I cannot stay in the eye of the hurricane or stay centered when I’m sleep deprived,” she said, and noted that the research backs her up. She includes about 50 pages of research notes and studies that confirm the need for humans to get 7–9 hours of sleep per night. Only 1% of the population is a “short sleeper” and can survive on 4–5 hours, but it is a genetic mutation. “You cannot make yourself a short sleeper.”

“And when you wake up, please don’t make it the first act of the day to look at your smartphone. Set an intention for the day,” she suggested.

She referred to libraries as “sanctuaries of wisdom. Even if you pick up one book, you are surrounded by wisdom. In modern life, we’re drowning in data and starved from wisdom.”

When asked if she would comment about politicians and the bravado that is displayed about needing only a little bit of sleep, she replied, “Donald Trump has said he only gets four hours of sleep (each night). He displays every symptom of sleep deprivation: mood swings, paranoid tendencies, instability. It’s all there.”


Psychologist, author, and MIT professor Sherry Turkle encouraged attendees at the Public Library Association 2016 conference in Denver to put down their phones in favor of face-to-face conversation.

Time to Put Your Phone Away and Talk

Big Ideas speaker Sherry Turkle advocates for face-to-face conversation

Felton Thomas, PLA president-elect, introduces Big Ideas speaker and New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas.

What is a True American?

Anand Giridharadas challenges librarians to get the conversation flowing